Virtual event this weekend.
If you were around Boston in the 1960s or are interested in that place and time, then you know about the Fort Hill Community in Roxbury.
And if you know about the Fort Hill Community, then you’re probably fascinated by Avatar, one of America’s most legendary underground sheets of its era (and no matter how you slice it, one of the archetypal alternative publications that ultimately spurred the likes of DigBoston).
One of many beloved creatives who called Fort Hill home for many years, Melinda Kweskin wrote poetry starting from the ’60s through her death in 2015. As her family explains it, though “some of her work was published while she was alive, much of the work wasn’t.”
Now, “after going through their mother’s papers after her death,” Kweskin’s daughter Kat Goldfarb has added to the public catalog with Introspections in Flight, which comes out this week on the iconic Bay Area imprint Zeitgeist Press. Here’s more from the publisher and family:
Melinda Kweskin was known in artistic circles as noted folk singer Jim Kweskin’s wife. The Jim Kweskin Jug Band released eight albums on Vanguard in the 1960’s and launched the career of noted singer Maria Muldaur. He and Melinda had a daughter in the early 70s, and he has continued to record since.
Melinda started writing poetry in earnest in 1967 when some of her poems were featured in a Boston underground newspaper, Avatar. She began to take her writing very seriously and would type her poems on a classic typewriter. She continued both poetry and prose wiring as a contributor to Avatar, including a series featuring her correspondence with soldiers in Vietnam.
As she got older, she also began writing letters and kept up correspondence with a tremendous amount of people, and kept poetry writing, archived in both print and digitally.
She had a career as an accountant for many large companies up until she had to have emergency quintuple bypass surgery in her early 50s that began a time of health challenges that continued for the rest of her life. She soon moved to Los Angeles with her daughters, and Kat’s twin sister Deirdre became her main caretaker. Her condition declined over her 20 years in LA and in the last years of her life, she was bedridden.
During this time, she was constantly writing, and she was able to bring her visions into her work, enabling a unique understanding of the emotional, spiritual, and intellectual realm of those around her. Her selected poetry works in Introspections in Flight seeks to share this understanding with the larger world.
The poems in the book are interspersed with remembrances from some of Melinda’s many friends as well as from her daughters. One friend, Jessie Benton (daughter of noted American painter Thomas Hart Benton) who didn’t contribute but loved the book noted, “I think it is the loveliest tribute to a mother that has ever existed, if perhaps the first.” (referring to some mother tributes that are more about the children working through their feelings rather than a celebration).
There will be a virtual event to celebrate the release this weekend: “Zeitgeist is part of monthly poetry reading the first Saturday of each month (now online on Zoom) hosted by the non-profit Poetry Promise, Inc. and sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Zeitgeist publisher and the first Poet Laureate of Clark County, Nevada Bruce Isaacson will read a selection and host other featured readers giving life to Melinda Kweskin’s poems from Introspections of Flight their first ever public reading on March 6. To join the reading, please click here at 2pm on Saturday.”